While baby proofing your home is certainly important, implementing child safety procedures in your car is just as important. It’s definitely a more urgent matter. Baby won’t be reaching for items within your home for several months, but the car is the first stop after birth. Baby proofing the car isn’t just about making sure you have the right car seat, although that should be the first choice. There is a lot more to child safety points than you might have at first considered.
1. Choosing a Child Car Seat
Choosing the proper car seat requires some research so you understand the different purposes of each. Choosing which type requires knowing your child’s weight and height. An adequate car seat should be at the top of your list when it comes to child safety.
Infant Car Seat
This is the best for children weighing 4 to 40 pounds. It’s unlikely, however, that your child will stay in this seat until weighing 40 pounds. Pay attention to length. If the crown of your child’s head is less than one inch from the top of the seat’s carrier shell, you need to get a new seat.
Infant car seats are rear-facing seats, which provides optimum safety against whiplash in an accident. Most have a removable carrier that connects to a base installed in the car. It’s critically important that the base is installed properly.
Child Convertible Seat
You should plan on purchasing this seat by the time your child turns one, if not before. Like the infant seat, this must be rear-facing for children young than one year of age and weighing less than 20 pounds. Some seats are manufactured to stay rear-facing for children up to 40 t0 50 pounds. Some states (CA, CT, NJ, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC) require rear-facing seats for children until age two. Convertible seats can be turned around when your child is ready.
Although some manufacturers claim their convertible seat is suitable for newborns and smaller infants, this seat doesn’t usually fit smaller babies properly or as well as the infant seats, nor do they offer the same convenience.
Child Car Booster Seat
Once your child has outgrown the forward-facing seat, it’s time to purchase a booster seat that raises your child up so your car’s built-in seatbelt fits correctly. Seat belts need to fit over the sternum and the center of the collarbone (below the neck) and across the upper thighs (below the abdomen).
Backless booster seats were most common because they were more portable and easier to install. High back models, however, provide better side-impact protection, better shoulder belt position and better comfort for children.
Check your state’s child car seat laws. Some require booster seats for children as old as 9 and as heavy as 80 pounds.
All-in-One Child Seat
Although all-in-one seats seem to be the perfect one-time purchase, Consumer Reports found they don’t perform well in safety tests. They’re typically large and heavy, inconvenient and may not fit smaller babies or smaller vehicles, for that matter. Most manufacturer specifications are for children 4 to 50 pounds for rear-facing, 20 to 65 pounds for forward-facing, and 30 to 120 pounds in booster mode.
Toddler Booster Seat
These forward-facing only booster seats with a built-in harness convert to a traditional booster using the car’s seat belts. Children weighing 20 to 90 pounds use the harness. Children weighing 30 to 120 pounds switch to the traditional booster seat.
2. De-clutter Your Car
Cleaning the inside of your car may not seem like a car safety issue, but consider how loose objects can cause serious injury when thrown around the car in the case of an accident. With that in mind, keep hard toys out of the car. Children are far less likely to injure themselves with a soft toy. They also won’t injure your child if you’re in an accident.
You’ll want to be careful about storing cleaning supplies and even shopping bags close to curious hands. Store those items out of sight of your child from day one. Parents are always surprised when their children learn to get into things they shouldn’t.
3. Protect Your Child From The Sun
Baby skin is extremely sensitive to the sun’s rays and can burn easily. Although tinting windows helps some, it’s not enough to protect from sun burn. Sunshades, window shades or sun shields are relatively inexpensive and provide extra protection from the sun’s harsh rays. Because they’re sheer, you maintain driving visibility. Whether you choose a sticker shade or a fabric shade, all are semi-permanent so you can remove them when you don’t need them anymore. Fabric shades are designed for mobility and are better for moving with baby from car to car.
4. Leave the Car Empty and Locked When Not in Use!
The most important infant car safety tips involve your empty car. NEVER LEAVE A CHILD ALONE IN A CAR! Store your purse, brief case, phone, shoe, etc. in the back seat on the floor below your child’s car seat. This prevents you from forgetting your sleeping baby. We recommend you do this every single time you’re in the car, with or without baby. You’ll develop a habit of opening the back door every time you park. Encourage other caregivers who don’t normally drive with your children to do the same. Outside temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit can heat up to 110 degrees and higher in less time than you think. Children can die at temperatures of 107 or higher.
When your car is parked (and empty), lock the doors. The car is not a playground for your toddler. Children are usually stronger than we think and can easily move the car out of park, sending the car rolling down the driveway.
5. Practice Parking Lot Child Safety Rules
Children can’t see what adults can and they can’t respond quickly in an emergency situation. Teach your children parking lot safety. Make sure they understand how important it is to hold your hand at all times outside of the car. Consider marking a safe place on your car where your child is to place their hand when you can’t hold it. Parking Pal created a clever Parking Pal Car Magnet that identifies that safe place.
Teaching parking lot safety – and how to stay safe in a public place – can’t properly be done while you’re distracted with the errands of the day. Plan specific training days with no other agenda than to teach your children how to stay safe, giving them an opportunity to practice. Practice parking lot safety, practice how to stay with you in the store, practice public bathroom safety. Then, while you are shopping remind what was taught. Reinforce the things you taught your children during practice time, talking about those safety issues while you go about your business.
April Clyde, Nevada’s only nurse midwife, can answer more questions about child safety. She believes education leads to empowerment. If you have any further questions that you would like answered feel free to call us on (702) 269-6018. You can also submit an online contact form.